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"Lectio divina is an authentic source of Christian spirituality recommended by our Rule. We therefore practice it every day, so that we may develop a deep and genuine love for it, and so that we may grow in the surpassing knowledge of Christ. In this way we shall put into practice the Apostle Paul’s commandment, which is mentioned in our Rule: “Let the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, live abundantly in your mouth and in your hearts; and whatever you must do, do it in the name of the Lord.”

 Carmelite Constitutions (No. 82)

Lectio Divina: Matthew 6:24-34

Lectio Divina

Ordinary Time

1) Opening prayer

Almighty God,
our hope and our strength,
without You we falter.
Help us to follow Christ
and to live according to Your will.
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

3) Reflection

• Today’s Gospel helps us to review our relationship with material goods and presents two themes of diverse importance: our relationship with money (Mt 6:24) and our relationship with Divine Providence (Mt 6:25-34). The advice given by Jesus gave rise to several difficult questions. For example, how can we understand the affirmation: “You cannot serve God and money” (Mt 6:24)? How can we understand the recommendation not to worry about food, about drink, and about dress (Mt 6:25)?

• Matthew 6:24: You cannot serve God and money. Jesus is very clear in His affirmation: “No one can serve two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot serve God and money… Each one has to make his/her own choice. They should ask themselves: “To what do I give the first place in my life: God or money?” This choice will depend on understanding the advice which follows about Divine Providence (Mt 6:25-34). It is not a question about a choice made only in one’s head, but rather a very concrete choice of life that has to do with attitudes.

• Matthew 6:25: Jesus criticizes excessive worry about eating and drinking. This criticism of Jesus, even in our day, causes great fear in people because the great worry of all parents is how to get food and clothing for their children. The reason for the criticism is that life is worth more than food and the body more than the clothes. In order to clarify or explain his criticism Jesus presents two parables: the birds of the air and the flowers.

• Matthew 6:26-27: The parable of the birds of the air: life is worth more than food. Jesus orders them to look at the birds. They do not sow, or reap or gather into barns, but they always have something to eat because the Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?” Jesus criticizes the fact that the worry about food occupies the whole horizon of the life of people, without leaving space to experience and relish gratuity and fraternity and the sense of belonging to the Father. This is why materialism is wrong, because it obliges the great majority of people to live 24 hours a day, worried about food and clothing, and produces in a rich minority, quite a limited one, the anguish of buying and consuming up to the point of not leaving space for anything else. Jesus says that life is worth more than the goods to be consumed! Materialist prevents living the Kingdom.

• Matthew 6:28-30: the parable of the lilies in the fields: the body is worth more than clothing. Jesus asks us to look at the flowers, the lilies of the fields. How elegant and beautiful God dresses them! “Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will He not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?” Jesus says to look at the things of nature, because seeing the flowers of the field, people will remember the mission which we have: to struggle for the Kingdom and to create a new life, living together, which can guarantee the food and clothing for everybody.

• Matthew 6:31-32: Do not be like the Gentiles. Jesus once again criticizes the excessive worry over food, drink, and clothing. He concludes: “The gentiles are concerned about these things!” There should be a difference in the life of those who have faith in Jesus and those who do not have faith in Jesus. Those who have faith in Jesus share with Him the experience of the gratuity of God the Father, Abba. This experience of paternity should revolutionize life together. It should generate a community life which is fraternal, and the seed of a new society.

• Matthew 6:33-34: Set your hearts on the Kingdom first. Jesus indicates two criteria: “To seek first the kingdom of God” and not to worry about tomorrow. To seek first the Kingdom and its justice is a means to seek to do God’s will and allow God to reign in our life. The search for God is concretely expressed in the search for a fraternal and just life together. From this concern for the Kingdom springs a community life in which all live as brothers and sisters and nobody is lacking anything. Here there will be no worry for tomorrow, that is, there will be no worry about storing up things.

• Seek first of all the kingdom of God and its justice. The kingdom of God should be at the center of all of our concerns. The Kingdom demands a life together, where there is no storing up of things, but sharing in such a way that all have what is necessary to live. The Kingdom is the new fraternal life together, in which each person feels responsible for others. This way of seeing the Kingdom helps us to better understand the parables of the birds and the flowers, because for Jesus, Divine Providence passes through the community. To be concerned about the kingdom of God and its justice is the same as to be concerned about accepting God, the Father, and of being brother and sister with others. Before the growing impoverishment caused by economic consumerism, the concrete form which the Gospel presents to us gives us an alternative so that the poor will be able to live via the solidarity of the organization.

• A sharp knife in the hands of a child can be a mortal weapon. A sharp knife in the hand of a person hanging on a cord can save. The words of God on Divine Providence are like this. It would not be evangelical to say to a jobless father, who is poor, who has eight children and a sick wife: “Do not worry about food or drink! Why worry about health and clothes?” (Mt 6:25-28). We can say this only when we ourselves imitate Jesus, organize ourselves to share, guaranteeing in this way to the brother the possibility of surviving. Otherwise, we are like the three friends of Job, that in order to defend God they told lies (Job 13:7). It would be like “abandoning an orphan and betraying a friend”. In the mouth of the rich, these words can be a mortal arm against the poor. In the mouth of the poor they can be a real and concrete outlet for a better life together, more just and more fraternal.

4) Personal questions

• What do I understand by Divine Providence? Do I trust in Divine Providence? How do I express it in real life? Can it be better expressed now that I look at it and myself?
• In helping others we participate in Divine Providence, which is to participate in the Kingdom as well. What are the opportunities I had today to help and participate in God’s plan to help sustain others that I missed or avoided or shrunk away from?
• When I pass someone on the street asking for money, do I just toss them a coin or do I spend time to find out what they need and who they are? Is there more that I can do? Even talking to them and treating them as a friend is a form of welcoming them into the community and respect for a brother or sister – something they likely do not feel.

5) Concluding Prayer

I observe Your instructions,
I love them dearly.
I observe Your precepts, Your judgments,
for all my ways are before You. (Ps 119:166-167)

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As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."